US warns of kidnaps by Islamic militants in Kenya

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NAIROBI, Sep 29 (Reuters) The US government has warned its citizens that Islamic militants based in Somalia may be planning kidnappings at Kenya's tourist-friendly beaches along its northern coast.

Kenya closed its border with war-ravaged Somalia before the New Year, when Somali government forces backed by Ethiopian military might and US intelligence support, ousted an Islamist movement in the Horn of Africa nation.

Kenyan authorities fear remnants of the Islamist movement who fled the Somali capital Mogadishu may be active along the border.

''The US embassy has received information that Islamic extremists in southern Somalia may be planning kidnapping operations inside of Kenya,'' the embassy in Nairobi said.

''There are indications that Islamic extremists based in Somalia may be planning to target Westerners, especially American citizens,'' the statement released yesterday said.

Earlier this year, the US government sparked criticism among officials in Kenya's vital tourist industry when it issued a similar warning for the predominantly Muslim coast.

The Kenyan and US governments have redoubled efforts this year to track al Qaeda masterminds behind the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed hundreds.

US intelligence believed some of those militants and others involved in attacks against Israeli targets in Kenya in 2002 were in Somalia during the war over the New year, and may still be there.

Some Muslim leaders in Kenya say the US government is persuading local authorities to crack down on their communities.

REUTERS SYU RAI1911

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